Zoom In Zoom Out

I use Zoom video conferencing at least three times each day, and it’s the focus of this week’s post, but maybe not as you’d expect.

Zoom Inc has experienced a sharp increase in value in the past month. Much of that growth is due to the still yet unknown reach and impact of COVID19, which is stress-testing supply chains and continuity plans around the world.

Young companies are also experiencing a new layer of uncertainty. As Sequoia highlighted this week, timelines to close deals and raise capital are likely to blow out. The clear implication to runways is that they need to last longer. And this means management teams will need to make difficult calls on hiring, team size and other capital intensive activities.

But massive opportunity lives within this uncertainty.

Experience tells me that the trick to unlocking opportunity in heavily constrained operating environments is to look for key decisions that can simultaneously mitigate or eliminate a large number of risks.

Today, I think using Zoom is one such decision.

Zoom in

My job as a CEO is to communicate intent and the end state of our mission, keep the company funded and educate investors and strategic partners on our path to impact.

As a teacher, my job is to inspire students to learn and act.

As a mentor, my job is to provide air cover to support high-quality decision-making.

Each of these roles has nuances and dependencies on other people who in turn are motivated by a diverse range of incentives.

For the most part, understanding these incentives and communicating intent has relied on me being there in person. To demonstrate my interest and commitment to helping them achieve their mission. But with isolation being a key tactic to combat virus transmission, in-person engagement is no longer an option, at least for the foreseeable future.

The key decision that can simultaneously mitigate or eliminate a large number of risks involves changing the mode of engagement. Specifically, and in most commercial contexts, these risks relate to decreased internal productivity and slower deal cycles.

Fortunately, mature technologies like Zoom can enable a rapid change in engagement. And the upsides are significant: decreased virus transmission, reduced travel time to meetings, multi-person video engagement and screen-sharing for greater context.

Zoom out

While the net meta effect is increased access to a larger population, rapid changes in modes of engagement can require a subtle re-write in how relationships are developed, work is done, and intent is communicated.

Distributed work culture is native to startups. A laptop and internet connection is usually all that’s required for work to be done. While conceptually understood by large organisations, this mode of engagement is less familiar. Email remains the dominant means of communication, and video conferencing tends to happen in dedicated meeting rooms.

Could your team operate effectively and serve your customers if they weren’t able to co-locate tomorrow?

If YES is the answer, then stop reading.

However, if the answer is NO, think about inserting Zoom in place of team stand-ups, critical meetings with partners and investors, and school or university classes.

The underlying content of those experiences may require adjustment, but that effort enables continuity. Importantly, it also signals resilience and commitment to your mission.

In any case, it costs little to prototype this new mode of communication and engagement.

One last thing…

I understand the apprehension of staring into a camera on your device, hoping that it will have the same impact as meeting in person. However, where progress slows due to factors outside of your control, the decision is more straightforward.

The bottom line is that there are big problems to solve, deals to be done and momentum to achieve.

Look for key decisions that can simultaneously mitigate or eliminate a large number of risks. Using Zoom (or a product like it) is one of those decisions.

I’ve been using Zoom with my mentees and for business for years. I highly recommend it, and if you’re new to Zoom, you can sign up for free.